Understanding Your Appetite

Understanding Your Appetite

Do you feel like your “FULL switch” is broken? That signal in your body that tells you when you have had enough to eat and removes nagging cravings? Did you know that there are actually two major hormones that govern your appetite and determine how full or hungry you feel? And that there are two systems in your brain that affect whether you are eating for sustenance or to satisfy cravings? The time for blaming yourself for cravings is over! Understanding the science behind weight loss can alleviate self-blame, and allow you to have a healthy, happy relationship with yourself. You will then be able to approach weight management from a space of positivity.

Appetite control can be traced back to systems in the brain

There are two systems in your brain that affect food intake. One of them is responsible for regulating appetite, while the other drives you to eat based on liking or wanting.

Genuine hunger – The hypothalamus homeostatic system

The Hypothalamus homeostatic system regulates appetite. It can either reduce appetite or cause you to feel “body hunger” in order to get your body the energy and nutrients it needs. Body hunger is regulated by hormones in the gut, blood sugar, and fat tissues. When managing your body hunger, it is advisable to eat regularly with balanced meals, and limit your intake of foods that are high in sugar and fats. Doing so will make you proud of your dietary choices. It will keep your relationships with yourself and food healthy.

The hormones that make you feel hungry or full

Have you ever felt compelled to eat even when you aren’t physically hungry? The Mesolimbic Reward system is responsible! Everyone has it in their bodies, and it can have huge implications for your relationship with food. The “reward hunger” it causes is often tied to stress or emotional eating. It is the brain’s way of coping with difficult emotions through food. The good news is that you can effectively manage your reward hunger by identifying food triggers. Knowing what need your body is trying to satisfy will allow you to take charge of your relationship with food. To make good decisions for the person smiling back at you in the mirror. When you understand that cravings are not your fault, but rather a result of normal biology, self-acceptance increases and self-blame washes away. This is a wonderful feeling!

The hormones that make you feel hungry or full


When Ghrelin levels are high, it is very difficult for your FULL switch to be turned on. So if you were placing blame on yourself for feeling hunger even after eating, rest easy. Ghrelin is produced by your stomach and stimulates appetite (Kirchner, Heppner, & Tschöp, 2012). It causes you to feel hungry (Kirchner, Heppner, & Tschöp, 2012) and leads to an increase in body fat and weight gain (Kirchner, Heppner, & Tschöp, 2012). It is entirely possible that high Ghrelin levels are leaving you with an inability to feel full. Leptin is the hormone responsible for making you feel satiated (Kirchner, Heppner, & Tschöp, 2012).


Leptin is the hormone that communicates to the body that enough energy has been stored in fat and produces a feeling of satiety that reduces your appetite (Klok, Jakobsdottir, & Drent, 2007). Leptin also helps to stop food cravings and decrease reward (Volkow, Wang, & Baier, 2011). “But wait,” you say. “If I never feel full does this mean I don’t have enough leptin?” In obesity, due to overeating, leptin is produced excessively in the body and the body then develops a resistance to its appetite-suppressing effects due to overexposure (Klok, Jakobsdottir, & Drent, 2007). If this is happening to you, you will have a much more difficult time feeling full. If you have been struggling with regular cravings, do not place the blame on yourself! These hormones exist in all of our bodies, and leave us with powerful urges that aren’t always easy to overcome. Congratulations on learning something new! Hopefully your new understanding will allow for greater self-acceptance. You deserve it.

Science affects how you manage your appetite

Understanding the hormones and brain systems that affect appetite puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to diet. This knowledge will remove the negative emotions that are associated with cravings. Keep everything you’ve learned in mind! Proper nutrition, mindfulness and even medication can have a positive influence on the way you manage your appetite.